What are the best anti-inflammatory foods to eat?

What are the best anti-inflammatory foods to eat?
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Chronic inflammation is a silent killer but it is also one that can be deadly. Research even says that it’s the cause for most chronic diseases which puts the health and lives of people in peril. 

The good news is that food can be your defense against it. In fact, many experts have stated that fighting inflammation is probably better done in the kitchen rather than waiting to rely on medicine. And, although I wouldn’t dare call myself one of these experts, I do agree with their statement. 

So, what are the best anti-inflammatory foods to eat? 

In a nutshell, you’re looking at a lot of whole food. More specifically, these include most fruits and vegetables like berries and leafy greens, a bunch of herbs and spices such as turmeric and black pepper, and even some drinks.

However, while there’s many anti-inflammatory foods to choose from, there’s probably even more out there that promote inflammation. 

Today, I’m going to give you examples of both so you know which ones to avoid and seek. But, before we get to those, let’s get our definitions straight.

What is inflammation? Is it good or bad? 

There’s 2 kinds of inflammation you need to know about: 

  • Acute inflammation, and
  • Chronic inflammation

Generally speaking, inflammation is a natural part of your body’s defense mechanisms. It’s how your immune system responds to any irritant, including, germs, bacteria, viruses, allergens, a simple scrape on your knee, and yes, even certain foods. 

Inflammation is also a key part of the healing process because it’s responsible for telling your body that something’s wrong. Without it, your body can’t even begin to repair itself. This is normally the case for acute inflammation — and there’s nothing wrong with it. 

The problem begins when the inflammation lasts way longer than it should (i.e. chronic inflammation). I’m talking months, even years! 

Besides the amount of time they persist, however, chronic inflammation has whole body (systemic) effects whereas acute inflammation is more local. Per study, this widespread inflammation is the reason for many diseases and also why they get worse over time. 

What diseases are caused by chronic inflammation?

Per research, these include:

  • Diabetes
  • A plethora of cardiovascular diseases
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Lung disease
  • Bowel disease, and
  • Cancer

The same study says that these diseases are why so many people in the world are dying, with even The World Health Organization (WHO) saying that they’re the greatest threat to human health. 

What causes chronic inflammation?

There’s a lot, actually, but, by and large, I like to divide them into either of these 2:

  • Autoimmune and auto-inflammatory diseases, or
  • Chronic exposure to irritants (such as food, pollutants, chemicals, etcetera)

The way I see it, the several causes of chronic inflammation generally fit into either of those.

If you want to be more specific though, here’s what a study says are the causes of chronic inflammation. I’ve divided them into either of the 2 categories I’ve previously mentioned: 

Autoimmune and auto-inflammatory diseases

Per the British Society for Immunology, autoimmunity happens when your body sees your own cells as foreign. This, then, cascades into a series of self-destructive processes — and when the inflammatory cells of your own immune system become activated due to this self destruction, that’s when autoinflammation happens. 

These are a few examples of autoimmune and auti-inflammatory diseases: 

  1. Rheumatoid arthritis
  2. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  3. Familial Mediterranean fever
  4. Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  5. Type 1 diabetes
  6. Psoriasis
  7. Blau syndrome
  8. Adult-onset Still’s disease (AOSD)

And several more.

Chronic exposure to irritants

  1. Failure to eliminate what’s causing an acute inflammation. These include persistent parasites, bacteria, fungi, and viruses. 
  2. Being exposed to irritating foreign material over a long period of time, such as industrial chemicals, silica dust, and other substances.
  3. Recurrent and/or untreated bouts of acute inflammation.

Another reason for chronic inflammation that I’d like to single out is repeated exposure to anything that causes oxidative stress. (This is where your lifestyle and diet comes into play, by the way.)

By now, you might be asking: 

Can stress cause inflammation in the body?

Yes, it absolutely can. However, you also have to remember that stress has both good and bad effects. 

I like to think of growth and recovery as the keys to “good” stress.

For example, the physical stress of a proper workout routine — one that includes the right amount of rest — can help your muscles’ grow in strength and mass while also elevating your cardiovascular system’s efficiency. 

The problem starts when stress becomes chronic and excessive

Per study, chronic stress suppresses your body’s immune system while intense stress over-activates it, leading to an imbalance in inflammation and anti-inflammation. 

Of course, one way to fight stress is through food — the right kind, if I might add. So, let’s circle back. What are the best anti inflammatory foods to eat? 

The list below should give you a good amount of food to look for as well as brief explanations of why they’re good for fighting inflammation.

Best anti-inflammatory herbs

Green tea

Green tea and black tea came from the plant Camellia sinensis, and both are actually pretty good for fighting inflammation. However, if you have the choice, I urge you to always choose green tea. 

Per study, green tea is better at fighting inflammation likely because it has more flavonoids — the compounds largely responsible for the herb’s anti-inflammatory properties. 

One of these flavonoids is EGCG, said to be the most powerful flavonoid in tea and it’s especially plentiful in green tea. As a matter of fact, several studies have already pointed out how the EGCG in green tea helps improve the quality of life of people with inflammatory diseases without any side effects. 

Thyme

The benefits of thyme go well beyond just adding flavor. Per research, thyme oil has a compound called carvacrol that inhibits COX-2 — an enzyme that promotes inflammation. 

It’s because of carvacrol that thyme fights off inflammation similar to how more popular anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, celecoxib, and other NSAIDs do. 

Moreover, thyme also has thymol which, according to an article from Indian Drugs, is also an effective anti-inflammatory compound. 

That being said, thyme is one herb that a good majority of us probably have in our pantries. I, for one, always have a bottle of dried thyme leaves on stock because I love the flavor it adds to marinara (along with some basil, rosemary, and oregano). 

Rosemary

Speaking of herbs with incredible flavor and anti-inflammatory properties, rosemary is another one that you probably already have in stock. 

One study has compiled the different compounds (and their respective health benefits) of rosemary. Among all of them, several have stood out as anti-inflammatory agents. Specifically:

  • Carnosic acid
  • Carnosol
  • Eucalyptol
  • Eugenol
  • Luteolin

However, several other compounds found in the herb also have powerful antioxidant properties, helping rid your body of excess oxidative stress which, albeit indirectly, also fight off inflammation. 

Sage

Sage, thyme, and rosemary — they all belong to the same Lamiaceae family. So, it’s probably no surprise that they share some of the same health benefits, including ones that help control inflammation.

Sage, in particular, also has carnosol and carnosic acid — the same compounds that help give rosemary its anti-inflammatory prowess. 

Besides the anti-inflammatory benefits, research says that sage also has anticancer, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, along with several other healthy characteristics. 

Japanese knotweed

Known by many names such as Mexican bamboo and Japanese Bamboo, Japanese knotweed is actually considered an invasive plant that may reduce plant diversity in certain habitats. 

Obviously, it’s not very ecologically friendly. But, on the other hand, it also means that there’s an abundant supply of this anti-inflammatory plant. 

Similar to the previous herbs, Japanese knotweed has several compounds that battle inflammation but one such compound, resveratrol, stands out. 

Per research, resveratrol showed a 60% stronger anti-inflammatory activity than piceid (also an anti-inflammatory compound found in Japanese bamboo). 

Thunder god vine

This plant has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Currently, its anti-inflammatory properties have been exploited as a way to manage several inflammatory illnesses including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. 

However, according to an article from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), studies have indeed proven the plant’s effectiveness as an anti-inflammatory agent but it also comes with side effects such as diarrhea, rashes, hair loss, and infertility. 

That being said, if you do intend to use thunder god vine, I highly suggest you tell your doctor about it first. 

Best anti-inflammatory spices

Turmeric

Where I’m from, turmeric is one of, if not the most popular natural anti-inflammatory spices in the market. I even have a jar turmeric powder in the kitchen right now but you could also see it in the form of tea or supplements. 

In any case, what gives turmeric its power is a compound called curcumin. It’s what’s responsible for the plant’s yellow hue and, per research, also largely why turmeric is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent as well as an effective antioxidant. 

The problem with turmeric and curcumin, however, is their poor bioavailability which means you’re going to have to ingest a lot — and I mean a lot — of it to feel its benefits. 

The good news is that you can pair turmeric with other herbs and spices that enhance absorption to reduce its effective dosage. One of these spices is black pepper, which brings us to…

Black pepper

To some people who’ve had to fight off inflammation, the black pepper and turmeric combo seems almost immaculate —  turmeric (and curcumin) has its powerful anti-inflammatory properties and black pepper, with its active compound piperine, boosts the former’s bioavailability.

As a matter of fact, study shows that piperine amplifies the absorption, and therefore the potency, of curcumin by a whopping 2000%.

Let me say that again: TWO. THOUSAND.

That’s insane! 

Not only that, research says that piperine has anti-inflammatory properties of its own. It’s also effective against excess oxidative stress (antioxidant) and helps treat insulin resistance (study). 

Ginger

Turmeric and ginger belong to the same family and they’re both great for fighting off inflammation. 

Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties, in particular, is largely due to its active compound gingerol. However, research says that shogaol and other active components found in the pungent rhizome also contribute to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. 

Garlic

I don’t know about you but garlic is one of my favorite spices of all time. I mean, honestly, garlic is involved in almost everything I cook — from fried rice, to garlic bread, to pasta, and virtually everything in between. It’s just too darn tasty! 

But, beyond its flavor, garlic is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and what gives it these properties are its sulfur compounds. 

A study from Arthritis Research & Therapy isolated one such compound called thiacremonone. According to their findings, the compound is useful for treating arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. 

Chilli peppers

Capsaicin is what gives chilli peppers their spice and, as you might have guessed, it’s also the compound responsible for its anti-inflammatory benefits — and there’s plenty of studies that prove it! 

For example, the African Health Sciences published a research last 2013 saying that capsaicin had similar anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects as a more popular NSAID, diclofenac. 

So, if you were ever wondering whether you should add cayenne  — or any other chilli pepper for that matter — to your recipes, let this be the sign that tells you, you should. 

Cinnamon

A study from Hindawi describes cinnamon as “a multifaceted medicinal plant” — and for good reason. According to the study, cinnamon has antioxidant, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, and of course, anti-inflammatory properties. 

Specifically for fighting off inflammation though, the compound cinnamaldehyde seems to be the main contributor. Per research, the compound suppresses pro-inflammatory genes which, in turn, helps reduce inflammation.

The drawback is that you shouldn’t take too much of this fragrant spice as some species of cinnamon also have coumarin — a compound associated with liver damage when you take too much of it. 

Having said that, I highly recommend buying Ceylon cinnamon instead of Cassia cinnamon. Though it can be harder to find, Ceylon cinnamon has negligible amounts of coumarin, so there’s little to no risk. 

In any case, even the smallest bit of cinnamon already imparts a strong flavor, so stick to a maximum of 1 teaspoon per day. 

Cloves

Cloves are said to have similar health benefits as cinnamon and, as research suggests, similarly potent, too. 

But, while cinnamon heavily relies on cinnamaldehyde, cloves lean on the compound eugenol for its anti-inflammatory benefits. 

Per study, cloves (and eugenol, of course) alters signalling pathways that not only help control inflammation, it might help reduce your risk of cancer, too. 

However, like cinnamon, ingesting too much cloves may lead to liver damage, especially in children and adults who already have liver issues. So, limit your consumption to about 2 cloves per day, 3 at the very maximum. 

Indian frankincense

Otherwise known as Boswellia serrata, the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences says that frankincense has been used as folk medicine for centuries. 

That being said, modern science has since proven its effectiveness, including a recent (2018) study from Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. However, the same research also says its effectiveness is dose and formulation dependent. 

As a rule of thumb, always follow the directions that your Boswellia supplement came with. For general purposes though, the Arthritis Foundation says to take 100 mg/day for osteoarthritis and 1200-3600 mg for rheumatoid arthritis. 

White willow bark

Several studies have said that the effects of white willow bark on inflammation is comparable to that of aspirin except that the former has significantly fewer side effects. 

As a matter of fact, one study states that the most concerning side effect is an allergic reaction to salicylate which, I believe, happens almost solely to the same people who’re allergic to aspirin. 

On that note, the anti-inflammatory benefits of white willow bark are largely associated with its active compound salicin. Look for that whenever you’re in the market for supplements. 

Maritime pine bark

Perhaps more commonly known as Pycnogenol, an herbal supplement made from maritime pine bark extract, the plant suppresses enzymes related to inflammation which, in turn, reduces pain and swelling. 

Furthermore, a study says that the compounds (i.e. phenolic acids and catechins) in Pycnogenol are quickly absorbed and remain in your system for as much as 14 hours, giving you a quick yet long-lasting relief from inflammation. The study says it’s pretty safe, too. 

Cat’s claw

First of all, they call it cat’s claw because the thorns on the vine resemble that of, well… a cat’s claw. 

Pretty interesting, right? But, nomenclature aside, the NIH says that cat’s claws have been used to fend off disease for about 2000 or so years. Today, it’s used as an herbal supplement that helps fight infection, inflammation, and several others. 

One research suggests that the vine inhibits TNFalpha, a pro-inflammatory cytokine, making it a promising alternative to other anti-inflammatory medications. Truth be told, however, there still isn’t much research done on cat’s claw. Though current findings suggest that it’s safe, I still recommend checking with your doctor.

Devil’s claw

This plant is known by many names but my favorite is, of course, devil’s claw. Per research, the plant is commonly used for arthritis and pain but is also used for a number of different injuries and illnesses. 

The same study also associates devil’s claw with several key healthy properties, including being an antioxidant, antibacterial, antidiabetic, and of course, anti-inflammatory. 

Like the rest of the herbs and spices on this list, these benefits are because of the plant’s compounds. Specifically, harpagoside and harpagide are believed to be what gives devil’s claws their anti-inflammatory prowess. So, look for those if you’re in the market for devil’s claw supplements. 

Best anti-inflammatory supplements

Speaking of supplements, I still think it’s better to get most, if not all of your nutrients from whole foods. 

However, I get that it’s easier said than done, especially in the case of chronic inflammation and its related diseases. Plus, how many of us really have access to all the herbs and spice I just mentioned, right? I honestly haven’t even seen half of them!

In this case, supplementation does help a lot. Here’s what I think are some of the best ones:

Matcha and green tea

Both of these actually come from the same plant, so they have virtually the same healthy benefits. The difference, however, is that matcha is significantly more potent because it’s literally the powdered leaf of the plant Camellia sinensis. 

Having said that, I prefer matcha over green tea because its potency means I have to drink less of it. 

If you choose the same route, I recommend organic and unsweetened matcha, like Kiss Me Organics’ Matcha Green Tea Powder. It’s bitter, yes, but you can always add milk to water it down.  

Curcumin (and piperine)

Turmeric, as previously mentioned, is perhaps the most well-known natural anti-inflammatory spice around the world. However, it’s poor absorption almost makes it impractical. 

That is, of course, if you take it alone. 

Taking it with piperine, black pepper’s active compound, increases its bioavailability 20-fold. Moreover, piperine itself has anti-inflammatory benefits, so it’s almost like nature made them for each other. 

BioSchwartz’ version of this pairing is what I recommend because in every serving, you get:

  • Solid dosages of both piperine and curcumin
  • Branded piperine (BioPerine®), and
  • You get 2 versions of turmeric: one is plain ground up turmeric root so you get all the other healthy compounds and the other standardized specifically for curcumin

Frankincense (Boswellia serrata)

Because the anti-inflammatory benefits of Boswellia are both dose and formulation dependent, you’re going to want a supplement that gives you a solid amount of milligrams, a potent version of the plant, and maybe other ingredients that complement the spice. 

The way I see it, the Superior Labs Boswellia Extract does just that. 

For one, it gives you a total of 1000 mg of standardized Indian Frankincense. That’s great. Second, it gets you 15 mg of BioPerine® to amplify the latter’s potency while also adding more anti-inflammatory support. 

These 2 alone should work amazingly but the supplement also gets you leucine which, according to study, also helps reduce inflammation while helping you build/maintain muscle as you get older. Granted, 200 mg of leucine isn’t all that impressive but, hey, it’s icing on the cake.

Resveratrol

Resveratrol can be found in several plants, including the previously mentioned Japanese knotweed. 

The typical problem with resveratrol supplements, however, are their dosages. Per research, the compound doesn’t look like it has any side effects at a dose of 1 g/day. Some even go as high as 5 g without any adverse effects. 

Supplements? Well, they’re typically at 500-600 mg. 

With that said, I recommend 2 supplements: 

Purely Beneficial’s formula is a bit more complicated to analyze because it only shows the total dosage of each blend, not the specific dose of each ingredient. I hate this part of it, to be honest, but the combinations do look impressive with standardized Japanese knotweed being the main ingredient, complemented by other anti-inflammatory plants.

Toniiq, on the other hand, is just straight up resveratrol from Japanese knotweed. It makes up for the lack of complementary ingredients with its significantly higher dosage and almost doubling the compound’s potency. 

Either one of those should help you ward off inflammation. 

Omega-3 (Fish oil)

I haven’t talked about omega-3s yet (I will in a bit) but if Harvard says it’s associated with reduced inflammation, you best believe it is. 

In any case, there’s a lot of omega-3 supplements floating around the market and a lot of them actually seem pretty solid.

However, whenever I’m shopping for supplements, I’m always looking for one that tells me exactly what things I’m taking and how much of a specific stuff I’m taking. That transparency is key for me and Sports Research’s version does just that.

It shows me exactly how much of each kind of omega-3 is in each capsule and where they sourced their omega-3s (from wild Alaska pollock). Pretty impressive dosages, too, by the way. 

Now, before we move on to the next section, let me just quickly answer something you might be wondering about supplementation:

What is the best time to take anti-inflammatory supplements?

First of all, some supplements will tell you exactly when to take their capsules. Some might say before or after meals, for example. 

Some, however, are a little more vague. For instance, they might only tell you to take the capsules once or twice a day. 

In this case, I suggest taking your pills prior to when you feel the most pain. 

For example, rheumatoid arthritis sufferers mostly feel pain in their joints right after they wake up, so it might be best for them to take their anti-inflammatory medication prior to bed the night before. 

Whatever the case may be for you, it’s still always better to check with your doctor, especially if you have other medications.

Anti-inflammatory drinks

Before anything else, a lot of the herbs and spices we just talked about can be made into some sort of tea or tonic. Ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, for example, are common ingredients found in several brands of tea. 

That being said, here are a few anti-inflammatory drinks you can add to your day: 

Turmeric ginger tea

There’s a lot of these kinds of teas in the market but I personally prefer Buddha Teas’ version. 

Why? Because it’s simplistic. All that’s in the tea bags are organic turmeric, organic ginger, and organic black pepper. That’s it. 

There may be other teas in the market with these 3 anti-inflammatory ingredients but a lot of them also come with other stuff. And, when it comes to inflammation, I don’t like that because some of those ingredients and combinations might actually be counterintuitive. 

Banana, blueberries, and spinach smoothie

We’ll talk more about them in a bit but bananas, blueberries, and spinach all have anti-inflammatory benefits. 

Put ‘em all in a blender, add some coconut milk (also anti-inflammatory, by the way), and you’ve got yourself an easy, anti-inflammatory smoothie that works like a great grab-and-go breakfast. 

In this case, I like Lemons + Zest’s recipe. Not only does it have all the ingredients I just mentioned, it also has a bit of cinnamon and cayenne to further boost the drink’s anti-inflammatory prowess. 

However, it does use almond milk instead of coconut milk. I get that almond milk is great, healthy, and all that but it does have plenty of omega-6 fatty acids which research has since associated with inflammation. Replace that ingredient with coconut milk, and the recipe should be good to go. 

Red wine

Remember resveratrol? The compound found in Japanese knotweed? Yeah, it’s in red wine, too! 

That being said, this is not an excuse to binge on the weekend. Red wine, as well as any other alcoholic beverage, can only be great for your health if taken in moderation and as part of a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise. 

How much red wine is good, you ask?

The American Heart Association (AHA) says that for men, 5-10 ounces of wine should be good. For women, 5 ounces. 

Dark chocolate

Per research, the flavonols in cocoa have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, possibly helping you fight disease depending on how severe your inflammation is. 

However, when choosing what chocolate to use, remember to always pick one that’s at least 70% cocoa. This usually comes as unsweetened cocoa powder. Anything below that, and you’re really just loading yourself with sugar — and that’s not very good for inflammation.

I believe Viva Naturals’ Cacao Powder is 100% organic cacao powder based on their ingredients, so it should pack a ton of nutritional value without the added sugar. 

Water

Yup, just plain old water. 

It’s boring, I know, but the fact of the matter is that you might not be drinking enough. Water has long been known to help in clearing your body of waste products which, in turn, can help you fight inflammation.

Think of it as the most basic, but also the most important antioxidant you can have. 

Per the MayoClinic, men should drink about 3.7 liters of water per day while women need 2.7 liters. 

Anti-inflammatory fruits

Avocados

Nowadays, avocados are dubbed as a superfood and I personally think it deserves that title because it’s packed with micronutrients, healthy fat, and several compounds, each with an array of healthy benefits. 

In fact, one research listed different extracts, compounds, and combinations of avocado and several of them had anti-inflammatory properties. These include compounds found in the leaves, the fruit itself, and avocado oil. 

In another study, avocado impressively reduced the negative health effects of junk food — in this case, it was a hamburger — which, according to the researchers, is suggestive of the anti-inflammatory benefits of avocado. 

Berries

From strawberries, to blueberries, to raspberries, to blackberries, and virtually all other berries, they’re all chock full of antioxidants that help rid your body of excess oxidative stress. This alone makes them one of the best anti-inflammatory fruits in the world. 

To be more specific though, research says that berries anthocyanins — the most notable antioxidant found in berries. 

What I personally like about them is that they’re all relatively low in sugar and calories but are also packed full of fiber. This not only makes them for inflammation, but also for your physique. 

Cherries

Speaking on anthocyanins, cherries have them, too, and it looks like it’s responsible for this fruit’s health benefits as well. 

One review published recently (2018) says that cherries had anti-inflammatory properties, capable of reducing oxidative stress, and decreased several markers of heart disease. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s sweet or tart cherries either. Both of them are rich in polyphenols (anthocyanins), so they should both be effective. 

Grapes

Tired of reading about anthocyanins yet? Well, you shouldn’t because grapes have them, too. However, grapes also have several other polyphenols which help make it one of the best anti-inflammatory fruits you can have, including flavans and resveratrol. 

All these, per study, help it reduce markers of inflammation and oxidative stress. 

Pineapples

I’ve probably consumed more pineapples than any other fruit on this list. It’s a pain in the a** to peel but I think it’s worth it.

For one, it’s delicious. But, perhaps more importantly, it’s loaded with anti-inflammatory compounds. Perhaps the most notable of them all is bromelain. 

Per research, bromelain exhibits anti-inflammatory benefits. Furthermore, it’s readily absorbable by the human body without having any major side effects. It even boosts the absorption of antibiotics. 

Tomatoes

Red fruits have lycopene but no other fruit has more of it than tomatoes. That’s what it’s known for after all. 

Research says that lycopene fights off inflammation by literally killing the cells responsible for inflammation. Pretty cool way to go about it if you ask me. 

That being said, lycopene is a fat-soluble compound. So, if you were planning on eating tomatoes today, it might be best to cook them with some type of fat to help with digestion. 

Olive oil should be a good choice because it also has anti-inflammatory benefits that complement tomatoes. 

Oranges

Oranges have the flavonoids hesperidin and naringenin which research suggests are involved in the fruit’s ability to control the inflammatory response. 

As the same research suggests, incorporating oranges in your diet may help prevent and treat chronic diseases. 

Plus, you probably already know about how oranges are packed with vitamin C. And, according to studies, moderate amounts of the vitamin can also help fight inflammation. 

Other fruits on this list are rich in vitamin C, too, by the way. 

Anti-inflammatory vegetables

Beets

Thing is, there’s not much research done on beets for inflammation yet. However, what science has so far is truly, truly promising. 

For one, there’s research that compares the effects of raw beet juice and booked beet on systemic inflammation. Based on their results, both versions of beet were effective in increasing antioxidant levels while reducing markers of inflammation. Although, raw beet juice did seem more impressive. 

Broccoli

You probably already know that broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables in the world, and it’s largely because of its phenols sulforaphane content. 

Per research, these two groups of compounds have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Spinach 

Another well-known vegetable you probably already know about is spinach. 

Nutritionally speaking, spinach is right up there with the best of them despite not carrying a lot of calories. In fact, just a cup of spinach will get you more than enough vitamin K, more than half of your daily vitamin A needs, a solid amount of vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids, and so much more — at only 7 calories!

Per research, all those vitamins, as well as the omega-3, all have antioxidant properties that can help rid your body of excess stress that, in turn, also help control inflammation. 

Kale

Weight for weight, kale has more vitamin K, C, A, and omega-3 fatty acids than spinach. 

Nevertheless, I see them both as 2 sides of the same coin. They have similar nutritional profiles and therefore, similar health benefits as well. 

Other cruciferous (green leafy) vegetables

In case you haven’t noticed yet, broccoli, spinach, kale are all part of the same cruciferous group of vegetables. 

It’s a very long list, actually, which include other commonly found vegetables such as cabbages, brussel sprouts, cauliflowers, and many more. 

According to research, consuming more of these cruciferous vegetables is a key part of a balanced diet because it’s also associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases — and that’s in large part because they’re generally rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals that help drive modulate inflammation and oxidative stress. 

Inflammatory foods to avoid

Now that you have an idea of what foods to get the next time you make a run for the groceries, it’s probably best if you knew what to avoid as well.

Too much alcohol

You know that red wine and other alcoholic beverages are great for fighting inflammation when taken in moderation. On the other hand, however, too much of it is down right dangerous. 

In fact, research says that chronic inflammation is linked to several alcohol-related diseases. The same research also says that excessive and chronic alcohol consumption disturbs your gut’s microflora which, in turn, affects your liver and other organs’ ability to control inflammation. 

Added sugar

There’s essentially 2 kinds of sugar you need to be aware of: 

  • Added sugar, and 
  • Naturally occurring sugar

Obviously, naturally occurring sugars are sugars that are naturally found in food. For example, the sugar that’s inherently found in fruit, milk, and vegetables. Per the NHS, we don’t need to avoid these sugars. 

This is because naturally occuring sugars also come with naturally occurring nutrients that your body needs. It’s why fruits and veggies are highly recommended despite a lot of them carrying a lot of carbs. 

Foods with added sugars, on the other hand, don’t have a lot of nutritional value to them. Added sugars are simply empty calories that not contribute to weight gain, but may also trigger inflammation.

Refined carbs

While we’re on the topic of “bad” carbohydrates, you might also want to avoid refined carbs. 

These include white rice, white bread, cake, crackers, and pretty much anything that’s made with white flour. 

These carbohydrates have high glycemic index scores which, in turn, almost immediately spike up your glucose levels. Per research, this instantaneous rise in blood sugar also causes an immediate spike in oxidative stress and inflammation. 

If you continually expose your body to these refined carbs everyday (and their inflammatory side effects), you’re only putting yourself at a higher risk for chronic inflammation and disease. 

Trans fat, saturated fat, and omega-6 fatty acids

By now, you should know that there’s “good” fat and “bad” fat. Trans fat, saturated fat, and omega-6 fatty acids can be part of the latter depending on their source and how much of them you take. 

Like sugars, trans fats can either be naturally occurring or added. Added trans fat, better known as artificial trans fat or partially hydrogenated fat, is the real enemy. These include margarine, lard, and shortening and are generally added to processed, fried, and frozen food. Per research, trans fat is pro-inflammatory, so you need to avoid these. 

Saturated fat, on the other hand, are fats that are mostly solid in room temperature (e.g. butter, margarine, lard, cheese). Research says that this type of fat mimics a pro-inflammatory endotoxin. 

And finally, omega-6. Unlike the 2 other types of fat, you actually need some of this in your system to function properly. The problem is that you’re likely having too much of it. 

It’s partly not your fault because we’re literally surrounded by foods with omega-6 nowadays. Per research, this increase in omega-6 consumption relative to omega-3s is associated with the uptick of chronic inflammatory diseases. 

That being said, focus your attention on getting more omega-3s as you likely will get enough omega-6s anyway. 

Delicious anti-inflammatory recipes for beginners

You know what foods to look for, what foods to avoid, and what supplements to take. Now, it’s time to put that knowledge to good use in the kitchen. Check out these recipes that’ll help you fight off inflammation: 

Carrot soup with ginger and turmeric

This recipe comes from Simply Quinoa and I think it’ll make a wonderful addition to your easy, staple recipes. 

The blog highlights ginger and turmeric — which you already know are anti-inflammatory — but the rest of the ingredients are pretty darn good for inflammation, too! 

For one, carrots are packed with vitamin A and beta carotene that also have anti-inflammatory properties. The recipe also features fennel, garlic, and butternut squash that not only make the soup taste better, but also add more antioxidants to your plate. 

Chicken and quinoa buddha bowls

This one’s from EatingWell — and though it requires quite a bit of ingredients, I believe the prep work is still fit for beginner home cooks. 

The chicken here is roasted, so you don’t have to worry about unhealthy oils. Quinoa also has a low glycemic index which makes it better than some other refined grains and carbs. There’s a bit of olive oil in there, too, to help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A and K.

Chickpea shawarma salad

We have Minimalist Baker to thank for this recipe.

Clearly, chickpeas are the star of this recipe and research says that its legumes like these that help reduce several markers of inflammation. 

Moreover, like any other delicious salads, this one comes with a variety of other ingredients. These include anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, and garlic, as well as herbs and spices like turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper. 

Easy ratatouille

First of all, what a great movie that was, right? Second of all, doesn’t it just make you want to cook?? 

Thankfully, ratatouille isn’t really all that hard to make and it’s amazing for inflammation, too! Although, to be honest, it does take a bit of preparation. 

That being said, I think PureWow does a good job with their instructions. It’s easy to follow and the ingredients they use for their recipe all look amazingly healthy.

Anti-inflammatory oats

Instant oatmeal may offer a quick and convenient breakfast but most of those packets are also loaded with sugar.

This recipe from Hungry Hobby, however, does not. 

One of the ways she does this is by using PBfit’s powdered peanut butter instead of the traditional peanut butter you find in stores. It has 0 trans and saturated fat and only 2 g of added sugar. 

There are a few other anti-inflammatory ingredients in the recipe, too, such as strawberries, hemp and flax seeds, and of course, rolled oats. 

Conclusion

In a nutshell, the best anti-inflammatory foods to eat include a lot of healthy whole foods. These include herbs and spices with their respective anti-inflammatory compounds, fruits and vegetables with dense nutritional contents, and even drinks based off of these same foods.

Having said that, I do hope all the information you find here helps you realize that you can win the fight against chronic inflammation and disease. 

But, uhmm.. Before you go, do you mind sharing this with your friends on social media? Thanks, bud! 

Article by:

Kristopher Ceniza

Kristopher Ceniza

I’m Kristopher, a writer for Sprout Origin. I’ve been writing professionally for quite a few years now but even before I pursued it as a career, writing has always been my safe haven. I’m also an avid gym-rat with a penchant for aesthetics and functionality, an ardent basketball fan, and a car/motorcycle enthusiast.

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